We have all seen those posts on social media. You know, the ones that say ‘share if you ever drove into the back of a truck and survived’ or ‘like if you drank from a hose, got disciplined with a wooden spoon, or played on a rusty old playground and survived!’ Honestly, these posts make me crazy. Because OBVIOUSLY the people who didn’t survive cannot like or share on a social media page!!!!!!
Seriously though, the truth is that times have changed. Parents are a little (a lot) less (more) strict on things then they were 20, 30, 40 years ago. We are more safety conscious today. This isn’t always a bad thing. But I’ve noticed that the changes between my parent’s, my son’s, and my childhood (as a collective) are far more intense than whether or not we survived the ride in the back of a pick up truck.
When my parents’ generation was younger, the family typically had one parent (usually mom) home doing the child raising. Mom was the one who taught us things like manners and what was or wasn’t acceptable behaviour. She did most of the cooking and cleaning. Indeed, some of the best television moms are remembered fondly as being the best. Dads typically went to work and provided for the family. They were responsible for the discipline (although I’ve heard many stories that mom was scarier than dad….lol;)) And, many Dads did the sports runs.
When I was younger though, things had started to change. Moms started going to work. This meant kids care was often taken care of by grandparents, day care centres, or babysitters doing the jobs that moms used to do. And let’s be real about the totality of that first one. Most grandparents are way more lenient with grandkids than they were with their own kids. The other options — daycares and babysitters — aren’t at all the same as a mom, especially when it comes to teaching some important life lessons, like manners and acceptable behaviours. Nevertheless, as a consequence of modern day times home time became rushed, dinners started becoming convenient instead of wholesome, house work was divided among family members (and often, even left until weekends.) Some of us grew up free to roam…lol….you know, this was the generation that used street lights to know we needed to come home;)
By the time my son was born, .things were drastically different. Stay at home moms were rare. Very few kids were home until they went to school. Daycares started popping up everywhere. And kids started being hooked on electronics. The TV became the official care giver while mom tried to find 10 minutes to brush her hair. And let’s not let Dad off the hook either. The video game system became a way for dads to escape….or something for kids to play when they had nothing better to do. And, as we now know, iPads and iPhones are common place. Fast food is eaten far more often then home cooked meals. Parents are more occupied with getting through the day to day. Our kids’ lives are scheduled from the time they get up until they go to bed, usually starting around their first birthday.
I know these situations only too well. When my son was younger, I was a single mom. I often feel like I missed some important parts of his upbringing because I had to work. And because my work shifts included evenings and weekends, my son juggled between daycare and family members. In his last year of daycare, a work injury left me unable to continue doing the work I was doing….so I got to spend more time with him. I was home with him on weekends AND in the evening. But the best part was that a couple of days a week, I worked in his daycare.so I was able to enjoy him before he went to school.
And this brings me to my point. I loved my son’s daycare.but something always seemed missing. That is, the kids in the center were never able to be ‘kids’.
When I was little, I was able to be a kid. We played outside. We were silly. We used our imagination in everything we did. We were taught that please and thank you were mandatory phrases. If we did something bad, we were told why it was bad and then punished. We watched television on Saturday mornings, or when we came home from school for lunch. We went to church on Sunday’s, and Brownies or Beavers once a week. We were free to roam as long as we stayed where our parents could find us. Schedules posted on the fridge didn’t exist for us. Because we knew what was allowed,and what wasn’t allowed. When we were expected to be somewhere, we were always ready to go. No doddling allowed. Looking back on my life, I can honestly say that I had the best childhood….because I was able to be a kid first.
Many things have changed since then. Thus, the day I decided to start watching children in my own home, I made a definitive choice that I was going to let kids be kids. I was going to let my ‘kids’ have the totality of childhood I wasn’t able to give my son. This means that in my house, imagination comes first. In fact, the only things done on schedule are food and naps. Yes, the kids are taught please and thank you. And, yes, they are told why some behaviour is not allowed, particularly when it comes to playtime activities. But within their freedom to be children, they are also learning how to play nice, how to take care of each other, how to clean up after themselves (although this is always a work in progress ;)). My ‘kids’ are polite, can tell a totally believable story until they get to the part where they ‘broke Australia’….lol….they can count to twenty, sing their ABC’s, and do know all their colours. But not because of an external pressure to learn but rather, because learning is a natural process. Moreover, they are kind….and when they are not, they are quick to say they are sorry. Like my son, my ‘kids’ will grow up one day too. In the interim, my hope is that when they do, they remember everything I’ve taught them so that they will only have “happy memories” of being a kid.
The Bible tells us in Proverbs 22:6 — “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it’
If this proverb is true (as I believe it is)and teaching our kids how to love life when they are small makes for happier kids, then perhaps, within this proverb is the solution for transforming us parents into happier adults? Or, at the very least, give us the motivation to search for a similar answer within other scriptures — the Word of the Lord. Certainly, Jesus beckoned the little children to come unto Him, in the same way He does us this day. But we need to respond to His love. We need to gladly accept His invitation, believing on Jesus for our daily bread — something that children do without any prodding or intellectualizing. Maybe , in our adult phase, we should return to that childhood place of innocence, wherein laughter and faith are inherent pillars within our being, and discover again why we are here, because life is not just about the things of this world.